Monthly Archives: July 2016

Wasting Time…

Devotional Thought of the Day.. err Night… well.. you know…
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4  For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5  Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6  Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:1-6 (TEV)

522      Even on those days when you seem to be wasting time, in the prose of the thousand details of the day there is more than enough poetry for you to feel that you are on the Cross: on a Cross, which no one notices.  (1)

In more than one way, I feel like I have been wasting time over the last few days.  Nothing has been accomplished, tasks at home and church are going on without completion, and to be honest, the place I am is one of pain, betrayal, incredible frustration and where I am witnessing the brokenness of humanity in ways I’ve never seen before.

It seems like I am wasting time, just waiting to get off a plane and hug my wife and son, and celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for me, for those I love, including my birth family, my adopted family, my church family, and for all the world.  Sunday can’t come along fast enough, as we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us as we take and eat, and take and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the meantime there is this brokenness, both that I observe (tears, frustrations,) and the feeling like I am wasting time.

Even here, this is not death I am facing, it is not the shedding of blood, it is an incredible lesson in depending on God. It’s about fixing my eyes on Christ, about remembering His sacrifice, about realizing I have been united to that death, so that I can survive this life, even trying times such as these.  I am driven to the cross to avoid the despair, to avoid the discouragement, for there, standing before my Lord, contemplating His love, in awe adoring Him because of His mercy – there I find the poetry, the craftsmanship that leads me in peace. That poetry Josemaria notes is seen in lives that are broken and healing, in lives that likewise only can find peace there.

The poetry, the poiema of God (the word in Eph. 2:10 which guarantees this isn’t wasting time), healing brokenness.  That I can appreciate, in that I can find hope and peace,  comfort and even joy.   At the cross where He Bled – at the cross where we join Him, at the cross where all is made righteous.

Realizing that, many this LCMS convention is not as much wasting time as I think it is….

Still hurtful, still feel like I have been betrayed… yet God… is working – and that is enough for me to find rest in Him.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1980-1982). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Challenge of Being Right

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.

There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved.  There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.

Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow.  The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy?  Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.

St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith!    But what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?

That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living.  For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.)  He just went, because he trusted God.  He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.

You want to be right?  Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow?  Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.

For this is life!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Possibility of Effective Confrontation?

Devotional Thoguht fo the Day:
1  Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-2 (NLT)

455      You will only be good if you know how to see the good points and the virtues of the others. That is why when you have to correct, you should do so with charity, at the opportune moment, without humiliating… And being ready yourself to learn and to improve in the very faults you are correcting.  (1)

There are times in our lives as believers that we need to correct others.  To call them to repentance, to help them  understand the grace of God with greater clarity.

It isn’t easy, and i think that shows up in the way we go about this divine task.  The first is to come in with condecension and even anger at those who just don’t get it. We become crusaders, giving our opponents a chance to repent or be left as our road kill.  Let’s be blunt, such coercion rarely results in true repentance.

The other option is simply to be apathetic.  To assume there is no option but the former tactic, and to give up trying, leaving the person to suffer without the hope of the gospel. This is not proper either, for the obvious reason, how can we love our neighbor if we are willing to leave them to struggle in sin and in error?

Paul calls us to do such correction with gentleness and humility. And with the concern that we don’t fall into the same trap into which the enemy ensnared our beloved brother and sister. St. Josemaria notes this as well, encouraging us to self-examination and to improve our own lives.

I think the reason for this is that the reason the sin that irritates us, that concerns us maybe in the very same family as the sin we struggle with in our own lives.  Whether it be pride or lust or some form of idolatry, we need to be aware of the grace that delivers us from the power of that sin,  We have to become aware of the grace that covers our sin, that heals us of the damage it does.

As we consider our own need for grace, and the joy of being rescued, as we kneel before the altar and given the most incredible feast, then we are prepared, with humility and the gentleness needed to confront our brother or sister.  And so prepared, we have a chance to see the miracle that happened in our lives, happen in theirs, the blessed gift of repentance and reconciliation.

This indeed is our ministry. This indeed is a gift of God.

Lord Jesus, help us be aware of the mercy you have on us.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1743-1746). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

IS This What Christlike Means?

Devotional Thought of the day:
1  Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.   Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Savior for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.

When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfill the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he , because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenseless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.

We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are—and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvelous title entails.  (1)

I have been struggling a lot this week.   Serious, soul wrenching struggle.

I originally thought the struggle was with other men, other men who, like me are called to shepherd the people of God.  I thought my struggle was with them because of actions and words that I have seen that divide the church more.  In one scenario, men are in opposition, not directly, but from bunkers of anonymity.  Both claim this is necessary because of a “fear of reprisal”. They actually both use that phrase, but I am not sure who they are afraid of, each other or some mythical third party?

Part of my angst, my struggle is found in wondering if this is Christ-like, or more specifically, if the adversaries think it is Christlike.  Even though I resonate with one side more than the other, I am repelled by the actions and secrecy of both sects. To be honest, there are days I want to utter a Shakespearean curse, “the pox on both your houses”.

Until I realize my angst is with neither group, my struggle is not in their ethical challenge.  My struggle is with my trust in God, the God whom Joseph had faith, telling his brother that what they meant evil, God used for good.  Or the promises of Paul that all things work for good for those who love God, and nothing can separate us from His love.

As I enter the arena of the discussion between these two sects, it must be with an attitude that Paul describes in the red above. Imitating Christ by being on one mind striving for that in love.  it is too easy to harangue and argue, to be dismissive and even paranoid.  It takes great faith to work for the reconciliation that Christ wants to see in the life of HIs people. If we see that we are reconciled to Him, then er can realize, and only then can we realize, we are brothers and sisters, the family that God loves,

Lord have mercy upon us, and may we love and pray for each other,

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1227-1239). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ministry is About Enabling All to See and Hear

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4  Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5  Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”  Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT)

397      Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)

Some may recognize the passage from Isaiah 40 quoted above as being fulfilled in John the Baptist. For he was the first to cry out that Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior was near, that the glory of His cross would soon be revealed to everyone.

John’s call for repentance leveled the playing field, for no man could stand higher than another, and when Christ was lifted up, all could see him.  No longer would wee little men need to climb trees to see Jesus.  All would be drawn to Him; all would be able to know the hope of salvation.

The problem is that we forget that we share in this ministry of making Christ accessible. The problem is that many of the obstacles, the hindrances, the mountains and canyons are ones we built.  Perhaps not intentionally, perhaps to give us a better view, but they still block the view, they still delay people who are bring drawn to the cross.

We have to stop treating ministry as if people are to serve it, rather than it serve the people.  It is wrong to make the one being drawn to Christ detour for miles or weeks or years to get around the trenches we dig, the barriers we put up to keep things safe and neat. We need a call to repentance, especially among those who are to shepherd the church, or who serve the church as the priesthood of all believers.

We need to hear these words, Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all the people will see it together, and recognize that in these words our commission is clear.

They need to see.

We cannot continue to get in the way, but rather, we are called to help them respond to Christ drawing all of us to Himself, to hear the answer to our prayer,

Lord, have mercy upon us, sinners,

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Poverty Is A Christian Value?

Discussion thought of the day:
25  ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! 26  Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? 27  Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life? 28  And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; 29  yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. 30  Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith? 31  So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” 32  It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. 33  Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 (NJB)

“Yes. poverty is a Christian value. The poor person is someone who knows that, by himself, he cannot live.  He needs God and other people in order to be, flourish and grow.  On the contrary, rich people expect nothing of anyone.  They can provide for their needs without calling on their neighbors or on God.  In this sense, wealth can lead to great sadness and true human loneliness or to terrible spiritual poverty.  If in order to eat and care for himself, a man must turn to someone else, this necessarily results in a great enlargement of his heart.  This is why the poor are closest to God and life in great solidarity with one another.; they draw from this divine source the ability to be attentive to others.”  God or Nothing,  Robert Cardinal Sarah   p.140

In the reading in blue came from another source, rather than a priest who grew up in true poverty, I would be more likely to dismiss the words as naivete, or as some idyllic rationalization.  But they come from one who was poor, who ministered among the poorest of the poor.  

One of the reasons I will struggle with this for a while is because it is written by one who has been there, seen it, ministered among it.

I want to justify this, to spin it, to remind the writer that money isn’t the root of all evil, but that the love of money is.  Another way to confront the writer is to compare my wealth to those around me, and claim that I am relatively impoverished. After all, I don’t own my home, and the last time the place we rent remodeled was when Kennedy was president.  And my salary is not what it could be by the standards my denomination set.

Compared to 95 percent of the world, we are, in fact wealthy. Maybe even 98% of the world.

Cardinal Sarah points out the real issue.  The issue is not wealth, but how wealth adds to the problem of independence, of self-reliance. Wealth destroys the independence of a community.  It is easier to forget the needs of others, when we do not have need, or have not faced it.  It is easier to write off what happens outside our walls, like the Rich man and Lazarus.  Like the Rich man we don’t have an appreciation what he is going through, and the value of the soul and mind of the impoverished. 

If poverty is to be considered a virtue, a way to grow in faith, then we begin to see self-reliance as the real problem, the real sin.  Or should I say, the illusion of self-reliance?  Because poverty normally is thought of as financial, but the other poverties, spiritual poverty, emotional poverty, relational poverty – they all lead to brokenness, to a solitary existence that is contrary to who are made to be.

Here it is, blunt and to the point.  We were created with one mission, one purpose.  To love, to love God with everything we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. To have intimate relationships (not physically intimate – but spiritually and emotionally intimate) is the concept.  It is in such relationships that we see the fruit of the Spirit grow, it is in such relationships where we can depend upon others and are depended upon by others., that the faith, hope and love the Holy Spirit nourishes in us matters, and is treasured.

Do I have to give up my wealth?  Do I have to be like St Francis of Assissi or Luther (giving up law practice) or a Mother Theresa?   

Honestly, I do not know.  There is a harder option, which is to ensure the things that I own don’t become treasures.  The treasures I have are found delivered by the means of Grace. First, the audacious love and mercy of God, and secondly the community of faith and those who will be part of it, delivered through word and sacrament with us.  Those are our true riches.

May the Lord’s Mercy remind us of this, and may that reminder bring us to love one another.

 

The Soul of the Mission: The Lord’s Supper?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
6  In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7  He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8  For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.   Ephesians 2:8-10 (TEV)

For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth—possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life.
66 Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.
67 Therefore, there is just as much need in this case as in every other case to pray without ceasing: “Thy will be done, dear Father, and not the will of the devil or of our enemies, nor of those who would persecute and suppress thy holy Word or prevent thy kingdom from coming; and grant that whatever we must suffer on its account, we may patiently bear and overcome, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or indolence.”  (1) 

The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.
One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church. Indeed, by the precept of charity, which is the Lord’s greatest commandment, all the faithful are impelled to promote the glory of God through the coming of His kingdom and to obtain eternal life for all men-that they may know the only true God and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ (cf. John 17:3). On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world.  (2) 

I was recently reading a document which described the mission field as one where suffering may be more likely than not.  It wanted to prepare (and or scare off) potential missionaries, warning them that life would be hard.

But it is not just missionaries in exotic foreign places who are to live life in that manner.  It is as well those who are missionaries here. All people who pray that God’s kingdom would come.  All who understand the grace of God, having received it in awe, and in awe spent time in adoration and thanksgiving.  This is the glorious work that God has given all the church, both its shepherds and sheep to do.

Luther is deadly with his recognition that there is a part of us that we balk at living lives full of suffering.  We don’t want to be self-controlled, living simply to put first in our lives God’s priority – that of bringing the message of salvation to the world, making it know and helping all to accept it.  Being brutally honest, I think sometimes we are glad when they are repulsed by it, or when we offend them enough to drive them away. It is easier to say “we tried and failed” than “we tried, and because we love them, we will keep praying and trying.” Vatican II says it well – it is our preeminent responsibility, this work of the gospel.
Being missional, being part of the apostolate (same term) requires us to suffer, to be patient, to be driven by the Holy Spirit, enduring to the end that people know Jesus.

Throughout this article, I haven’t used the other word, Sacrifice.  I have not used it, because honestly, giving up money or fame, separating ourselves from our idols and false gods is not sacrifice.  At least we learn it is not, as we find ourselves at the cross.  That was sacrifice.  Our giving up things, our endurance is simply the process of sanctification, as God himself separates us from that which distracts us from His love, from His presence, from the sacrifice of Christ’s love.

It is for that reason the passage from Vatican II calls the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the soul of the apostolate, or as some would know it, the soul of being missional.  It is there, in that intimate moment as God gives you and your family Christ’s Body and Blood, as the covenant is renewed and celebrated, that we find again what is so precious.  Time with God, the refuge of peace that overwhelms us that assures us that He loves us, that He will heal us, that He cares for us.  God is our refuge, our strength, our very help in time of suffering.

This celebration of Christ’s sacrifice which unites us to God is the soul of our mission; it is what is so amazing that we know others must know it as well.  That life is simply not the same without it.  We have to reveal it to others, we are compelled, not by force, but by love to do this.

It doesn’t matter whether we are in the mountains of Papua New Guinea or the coastal towns of Sicily.  It doesn’t matter whether we are in the suburbs of Boston, or in the urban city of Bellflower, California.   It doesn’t matter whether we are risking our lives preaching the gospel in the Sudan, or in Istanbul, or having breakfast with friends in Cerritos.

The need for us to reveal God’s desire to meet their deepest needs, to bring healing to their brokenness exists.

This is our mission; this is why we are part of the apostolate, those who walk with Christ bringing light and salvation to the world.

We are Christ’s masterpiece.  We are united to Him, and doing the good words God has created in our lives.


(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 429). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)   Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Let’s Not Get Tired…. REALLY? A sermon on Galatians 6

Let’s Not Get Tired!

Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18

 In Jesus Name 

May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!

No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?

Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors.  He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events.  In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed.  Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.

Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.

For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.

Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”

Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.

But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!

Even if we are tired.

So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.

So how do we do that?

Obeying the Law

First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.

What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago.  To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)

If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home!  Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,

“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”

“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″

These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging.  For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop?  How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.

Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business.  Or even worse?

How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears?  What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?

This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.

It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.

But how do we do that?  How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?

Treasuring the Walk

We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross.  Here St. Paul again,

14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!

This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death.  At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs.  In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.

Where our transformation into His likeness begins.

That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.

For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.

Getting tired, exhausted even?  Feeling like you do not have another step in you?  Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often.  Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.

Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need.  You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.

You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.

Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

I Don’t Think This Scripture Meant What You Thought it Meant! Jer 29:11

Devotional Thought of the Day

11 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 12 When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me—oracle of the LORD—and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you—oracle of the LORD—and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.   NABRE Jeremiah 29:11-14

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. (1)

Verse 11 of Jeremiah 29 is well known.  You see it placed on coffee cups and t-shirts, on various memes and on cards that are sent to people going through tough times.  It is used by pastors and priests to bring comfort, and yes hope to people going through challenges and enduring hardships.

We’ll memorize it, but do we always remember the context?

It is in the middle of a call to repentance, in the middle of Jeremiah’s prophecies about the pain and suffering Israel would endure, because their people followed their own desires.  Because they listened to prophets who gave them false hope. Who told them what they wanted to hear, and so they placed their hope in these men.

Sort of like those today, who maintain that all will be right, that we will be restored to greatness, if only this candidate or that wins an election.  Or if only this or that is done, or only if…only if…

But don’t touch OUR sin.  Don’t challenge us to repent.  Don’t bring up the fact that we need to love our enemies and pray for those who oppress us.

You see, when you finish with the promise of verse 11, you see verse 12, and a cry to come and deliver us.  A cry and another promise, God will listen, He will hear your cry!  He will change things, heal that is wounded, restore that which is broken.  He will create in you a new creation, a creation with a future and a hope.

When the people of God seek God their Father, they will find Him (for it is to believers this is written)  He won’t reject us, He won’t crush us because we sinned and rebelled.

This passage offering a future and a hope is far more powerful a promise, far more a comfort than we think.  For it brings a hope, a blessed expectation, not just to those who are innocent victims of circumstance, not just to those oppressed and poor.  Surely they hope, but this is written to those broken apart, crushed by their own sin. It is written to those of us who do not deserve a future and a hope, but God promises us a future and hope as well.

That is why this passage is far more powerful than we usually think it is.It applies to those who are struggling with their own sin, who don’t believe God could ever care.  To the addict, or the prostitute, to the mobster and the gang-banger, to the politician and to you and I.

It’s time to claim the promise, to let God reconcile you and I to Him.  It’s time to cry our,and keep crying out, depending on a God who came to bring us home.

He is listening, He is with you!

My friend, He has promised this as well, that His peace, which goes beyond our ability to comprehend is your, and that He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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